Thanksgiving holiday tables should be brimming with turkeys, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and nuts as supplies of these holiday favorites will be plentiful despite one of the worst U.S. droughts of this century.
Retail prices of these holiday foods ought to be very near last year's levels, with retailers again offering special low prices to lure Thanksgiving shoppers, an industryspokesman said.Turkey supplies are up about 1 percent from last year - less than expected but enough to easily meet Thanksgiving and Christmas needs, said Lew Walts, executive vice president of the National Turkey Federation.
Higher feed costs trimmed flock expansion plans this summer, he said.
But consumers will be insulated from price increases as retailers promote turkeys at below cost, Walts and retail meat managers said.
Shoppers can expect holiday turkey prices as low as 29 to 39 cents a pound, well below wholesale and production costs, Walts said.
Retailers offer these "loss-leader" turkey prices now to generate store traffic and increase sales of other, more profitable holiday food items, retailers said.
One of these items likely would be sweet potatoes or yams. Sweet potatoes are grown mainly in the Southern United States and California and thrive on dry weather, said Harold Hoecker, executive director of the Sweet Potato Council of the United States.
This year, U.S. growers produced about 12 million hundredweight of sweet potatoes, about the same as in 1987, and sweet potatoes should retail for 29 and 39 cents a pound, also unchanged from 1987, Hoecker said.
Pillsbury Co. is a leading producer and marketer of yams, and company spokesman Larry Haeg agreed with Hoecker - there should be plenty. Haeg estimated a 17-ounce can should retail at 59 to 69 cents.
"We don't expect any change in price, availability and quality this year," said Haeg.
Pillsbury also processes white potatoes into instant mixes. Potato production in North Dakota was down about 35 percent this year because of the drought, but Idaho's crop was largely unaffected, Haeg said. As a result, there should not be any shortages.
Along with the turkey, dressing and potatoes, holiday diners likely will heap on healthy servings of cranberry sauce, and Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. says there will be plenty.
Cranberry production, centered in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, is up 12 percent this year, said Jeff Rundell, Ocean Spray's spokesman.
Ocean Spray markets 85 percent of the U.S. cranberry crop. About 12 percent of Ocean Spray's cranberries are sold fresh, and the rest is processed into sauces, drinks and other products, Rundell said.
For after-dinner snacking, English walnuts are a favorite at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although U.S. walnut production this year, at about 200,000 tons, is down from 1987, there is more than enough to meet expected demand, said Mark Villata, associate director of the Walnut Marketing Board.
English walnuts are in greatest demand now for holiday breads and snacks.
Villata said annual U.S. per capita consumption was 1.4 pounds and about 80 percent of U.S. production is consumed domestically. Nearly all the U.S. crop is grown in California's San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys.